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The Body Shop France, the former champion of natural beauty, placed in receivership

The fate of Body Shop France is darkening.

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The Body Shop France, the former champion of natural beauty, placed in receivership

The fate of Body Shop France is darkening. The French subsidiary of the British cosmetics chain, recently acquired by the German investment fund Aurelius, was placed in receivership this Thursday by the Paris commercial court. This situation echoes the difficulties encountered by The Body Shop in Great Britain, where the company, filing for bankruptcy, is preparing to close 75 stores.

The situation is not much better in the 66 stores in France. In a situation of cessation of payments, The Body Shop France filed for bankruptcy on March 19 with the Paris Commercial Court. In the process, its new manager, Martin Rivers, announced to the 266 French employees that he intended to request that the company be placed in receivership. At the end of the hearing held this Thursday, the Paris Commercial Court confirmed the placement in reorganization and the opening of a six-month observation period aimed at carrying out a diagnosis of the company, and prepare a recovery plan.

Employees felt the tide turning at the start of the year, when The Body Shop left the portfolio of the Brazilian group Natura

The brand's difficulties are not new. “Store closures had already been underway for several months, without necessarily being linked to the change of ownership,” confides the former employee. “The company has been in bad shape for a long time. Lots of recruitment freezes, never any increase or participatory bonus,” she emphasizes. Shaken by Covid, the French branch nevertheless struggled to return to growth. While in spring 2023, the brand's global sales fell by 24.3%, the former CEO of The Body Shop, Hugues Laurençon, announced the strengthening of the subsidiary through franchising. The opening of 30 new franchise points of sale within 3 years was to be accompanied by a rationalization of the overall store network. But this French voluntarism did not make it possible to compensate for the setbacks of the Natura group

No one knows for sure what the new owner of The Body Shop plans as part of his recovery plan. The sale of certain points of sale or the dismissal of some employees cannot be ruled out. “As for the teams, there is really a disturbing and anxiety-provoking climate. We don’t know what will happen or when,” worries the former employee of the brand. If certain stores were to lower the curtain, the ex-employee assumes that the ax will fall on those whose accounts are now in the red. “There are a lot of them,” she whispers. “For the year 2023, only 4 to 5 stores out of the total fleet were profitable and some were barely so.” The future of some 260 employees is therefore more than uncertain. “It’s scary to be inside and not know anything,” comments an employee on duty.

A question remains: how could this brand with a strong reputation, a pioneer when it was created, find itself in such a situation? Born in Great Britain in 1976 under the leadership of businesswoman Anita Roddick, The Body Shop has long been a world leader in “natural” cosmetics. Denunciation of animal testing, plant-based composition... The brand's committed and ethical positioning helped establish its reputation in the 1980s. Some of its products - White Musk perfume, body butter - have even become best-selling products. -sellers of the decade. The success of the model has also gone beyond British borders since at the time of its sale to L'Oréal in 2006, The Body Shop had more than 2,000 stores in around fifty countries.

This takeover, which caused a lot of ink to be spilled - Anita Roddick had been accused of turning her back on her environmental commitments - turned out to be less conclusive than expected. Despite its investments, L’Oréal has not managed to make its “green” asset take off. From its 3,000 stores, The Body Shop posted an overall turnover of 920.8 million euros in 2016, down 4.8%. In France, the British brand was forced to deal with its long-time rival, the Yves Rocher brand, which also specializes in plant-based beauty. But, over the years, other competitors have emerged (Lush, Dr. Hauschka, Avril, etc.), putting the historic brand in danger. While the beauty market has experienced unprecedented dynamism since the end of the health crisis, The Body Shop is suffering from its low awareness among younger people and its price positioning which has become illegible. “The brand has potential, but we will have to completely change our strategy to get back on track,” we comment internally.

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